tv [untitled] May 28, 2012 10:30am-11:00am EDT
and it could have been turned in the early 20th century. the national park service maintains their own collections from jamestown, and for 2007, one of the sort of legacies we decided to leave rather than another monument on the landscape was to join the collections to some extent so a new facility was built adjoining our building. we've made sort of a campus, and while the collections are kept prattly, they are in one spot. so someone coming to see a particular material type, they're doing research, it's more convenient and easier for them. they can go to both collections to do their work. hopefully, we will survive into the future. i mean we've organized the materials and we've built the structures to be permanent
archives. and i would hope that 400 years in the future, you know, there is a jamestown collection that's capable of being studied and examined by scholars of the future. i look back 400 years and think, well, how many collections have survived you know? and i do worry about that, but you know, there are things like the ash molian collections that have -- so we just have to be hopefully will be really good stewards now and train up the next generation of stewards to take care of this stuff. >> they were made so they could fit several down into a case together. so side by side, these case, these bottles would go into a case. that's where the name comes from. and they are the type of drinking bottles used in early 17th century up until about 1650. but then when you get into the 19th century, you're going to find a machine-produced are
quite different from the handma handmade upholstery tab. if you have a bigger piece, you can tell what the shape of the wine bottle was and you can tie it down to a ten-or 20-year time period. and this is probably a -- >> so that means that's there. so actually a complete piecework -- >> this program is one of a multipart look at archaeology and jamestown i land, virginia. check the american history tv website, c-span.org/history for schedule information. the organization of american historians and the national council on public history recently held their annual meeting in milwaukee, wisconsin. american history tv spoke with several of this year's attendees. next, yale history professor joe
and freeman and university of chicago political science professor william how well describe acts of violence in the u.s. congress leading up to the civil war and congressional checks on war powers in the modern era. professor freeman is working on a book titled "field of blood, congressional violence in antebellum america." professor how well has written be about congressional checks on presidential war powers. >> we're at the organization of american historians annual meeting in milwaukee. we are going to talk next about congress and american politics with joe and freeman, a history professor at yale and with professor william how well from the university of chicago and you're a political american politics professor. thanks for joining us today. start off, professor freeman, with a book you've been worked on called "field of blood
congress counsel violence in america." normally when we hear about congress, we don't think about violence. >> that's true. the book is really about the couple of decades, $91830, '40s and '50s before the civil war and it's about actually physical violence, pushing, shoving, pulling of buy knives, pulling of pistols, mass melees with 20 or 30 guys sort of wrestling each other. part of what i'm talking about in the book is, there's a lot more of it than people realized. a lot of it's hitten. you have to certainly for it and find it. once you do, you sort of realize, i mean, america was a violent place but congress was a violent place in this period, too. i sort of cataloged a lot of it and trying to look at the implications of it. >> what's going on there? why did congress become such a violent places? >> america was violent, congress was violent. partly it's not just congress but congress in this period is involved in all these sort of
major union shaking issues. and part of what's going on with the violence is southerners and southern born werners tend to be the aggressors. so particularly over time talking about something that has to do with slavery and you're a werner and you want to shut somebody up, it's really effective to reach for your booey knife. >> this is part of the context, you brought this up in a discussion today on congress and politics in general. did you find people sort of surprised at the level of violence of emotion that was going on in congress? we don't see that in congress now. we do see emotion. >> that's true. i mean, i do think generally speaking, our image of congress in this period senior clay calhoun and webster sort of making great words. so yeah, it isn't the image. so i think people -- they're not surprised that there was some violence. there's a famous painting of charles sumner.
whenever i say congressional violence, everyone says there's charles sumner but there's 119 other incidents in which people are doing something physical. people become very surprised particularly gimp a lot of it is is in the house and senate chambers. it doesn't tend to be put in the period of the equivalent of the congressional record. it hasn't been parent and people didn't know it was there. >> professor, what was the biggest take away from historians on congress and politics? >> i think the importance of violence, this is something we've been talking about, it's a surprise. it's happening as much and that it was such a prominent feature of law making, of the speeches that are given, of the doings of government. it isn't just bad men behaving badly. there were policy stakes involved. >> it's politics. >> yeah, and it was shaping what was going on in congress in important ways.
it was -- i don't know of any congressional scholars that will have looked at this phenomenon. it's exciting it's being unearthed. >> this discussion outside of professor free man, did you have other scholars participating in this discussion today? >> there were some in the audience. are you asking about the other papers? >> about the other discussion in your session today, were there other congressional historians in that? >> yes, yes, there were. so we had another paper that was looking at the contemporary period and the engagement of congress in foreign policy making. which is in some ways a very different topic but in other ways not so much, right? i mean, this is again a legislature trying to come to grips and shape big debates. he was looking at trying to contain the president's he ability to wage war an broad, and this was about in the big background was about slavery. >> you've written some on the ability of congress to -- the authority of congress to wage
war what is the role now in what is congress's role in declaring war. >> congress formally hant declared war since world war ii. there have been since world war ii all sorts of instances where presidents have just unilaterally sent troops abroad as one class of military action. the other class are cases where congress authorizes the use of military force. but often authorizes it in really broadways. and so this has led a number of scholars to conclude that congress has all together abdicated for making it its constitutional authority to an executive which is unbound. that strikes me as overstating matters quite considerably and ignores a lot of the interesting politics that occur across the various branches of government about war. but it's the -- it's a striking feature of the modern era.
that congress is not out in front defining military policy in ways that it once was. >> a book reviewer looking at rachel maddow's book "drift". american military power wrote this on war powers. especially in the last half century, the decision to go to war has become too easy. congress's constitutional prerogative to declare war has routinely been ignored. only a tiny fraction of america be serves, permit a majority to remain oblivious to its grizzly human price. does that make iters for congress to say okay, for congress to abdicate and let the president call the shots? >> yeah, at the front end. at the front end about deliberations whether or not to initiate military force. but that doesn't mean that congress isn't at important player in shaping presidential decision making about whether or not to go. let me try to be clear. during this period when we
will -- there's been widespread abdication, wars have really done a number on three presidents, right? true pan's approval ratings are in the high 20s in no small part because of the korean war, johnson decides not to run again in '68 precisely when the vietnam war is seen as an a full-blown war and bush, a big reason why he loses both chambers of congress in 2006 and why we have a president obama and not a president clinton is because of the unpopularity of those wars. and in all those instances, members of congress played an important role in shaping the domestic debate about the efficacy of military action. so there are things congress can do to make wars costly to presidents that are not up to the standards of the constitution. it's not about congress declaring or not declaring, putting a tight leash around the president but they can do things to make military action incredibly costly. and therefore, really relevant, the domestic politics of war. >> so are you saying that
congress by doing almost by abdicating in many ways congress has become more powerful by letting the president take the fall for. >> no, i wouldn't go that far. i don't want to claim that they are -- i'm not a constitutional law scholar. my sense is that congress is not fulfilling its basic constitutional obligation to parties involving war. but that isn't to say that they're irrelevant. and so they're not doing a lot of the formal things but what they do do is when a military action goes awry, what they can doing is give all kinds of speeches and hold hearings and launch investigations and talk about the incompetent of our president in putting you know, our troops in harm's way. and that that kind of behavior has real political cost to a president. >> tie this back into congress this way. professor freeman, you are
editing a volume on alexander hamilton in the library of america, his writings. >> i did, yes. >> did you. and how do you suppose as one of the founders he would view -- and one who didn't participate in congressional violence but had a dual. >> unfortunately. >> unfortunately. for the time. how would he -- what was his view on the role of the legislature and the executive in terms of the war powers? >> well, i mean, hamilton was very much a fan of a strong executive. and to an extreme degree in that time period that some people accused him of being a monarchist and trying to introduce a king into the new republic because he wanted such a strong executive. on the one hand, you could say he's in favor of something or would have been in favor of something that would have been presidential power. but on the other hand, in that time period, i think america hadding to think differently about war because the government was new. we basically didn't have much of an army.
we didn't have much of a navy. we basically didn't have a way to fight a war without deliberately setting about to do something. as much as i think he would like the enhancement of presidential power, he was in some ways a realist about what should or shouldn't be happening in war. i think generally speaking, we had an almost war with france, the quasi war, i don't know, it's kind of a gyp of a name for a war the quasi war. >> it was actually called the quasi war. >> it was. this almost war with france, there's a case in which a number of people were pushing more sort of pushing for war than they might have been otherwise. but still, that would have involved a lot of building up of military forces which would have involved of having congress become involved and we didn't have a war so the quasi war remained a quasi war. but still, war was a charged issue in a brand-new baby country. >> and i think you're pointing to something really important which is that in order to launch
a military action, you had to build the capability first. which requires all kinds of political coordination in ways that when you have a standing army and have you all kinds of military capability, and you're in an era when the president can unilaterally make decisions about when and whether we're going to wage war, that is this i think an important way in which congress has less of a constraint. the president doesn't have to go over and say let's start raising taxes so that we can actually get the arms that we need in order to wage war. >> but congress does have the responsibility to authorize and appropriate for those departments for the war department in that case or the defense department. >> but the challenge to a president of going before congress and saying write this check so that i can launch a new military action is significantly greater than the one that involves the president going to congress and saying write this
check so that we can protect our troops who are in harm's way today. the latter is an easier debate to have from the president's standpoint. >> did we take the decision out of this may be a bit of a more constitutional question. the nation's first president was our military leader as the leader of the revolutionary war. do we give the right to declare war to the executive based on george washington, based on his experience? >> i mean, i wouldn't say that's why that happened. i would say it's hard to imagine someone else who could have been the first president given the degree of power that the executive had. so maybe part of the case there is because washington was there, and because he was so trusted, because at the end of the war he gave up power and went home, the best way to be trusted with power is to basically surrender it and leave. and as the leader of a
victorious army, history says he should have done something to take power and he didn't. so because he was such a trusted figure i think it made it easier for us to have that first executive. you know, i always think he doesn't get a lot of credit for the difficulties of being the first executive and having to be the guy setting precedents in any number of ways. you know, he goes to congress for the first time to have basically have a treaty read and get you know advise and consent. he just wants to hear what congress says. there are carolinas outside and it's noisy and people can't hear and they ask to have it read a second time. washington is beginning to be inpatient. someone stands up and says president washington we might like a day or two to talk about this and he erupts. that's the whole purpose of my coming here and storms out and never goes back. that's it, i'm not going back to congress. so in his mind, it was humiliating wasted my time.
being that guy who is setting precedence of behavior that are affecting ultimately that might affect policy. >> isn't it also moments like that that begin to show the rise of congressional power that congress declares its authority to whether overtly or just by implication, hey, we want a few days to consider this treaty to advise and consent? >> no, that's a great example of it, but it's also a poignant one. it's one little guy who writes in his diary like he's kind of scared and stands up in front of george washington and says we need a little time and kind of waits to see what happens. it is a reminder how new and experimental the whole situation was. >> you're writing in the book on congressional violence, you're writing of the period ahead of the civil war and you talked about the statesmen, the calhoun and webster. did they sort of, those individual members of congress, fill a vacuum of executive leadership that may have been missing in those years ahead of lincoln's election? >> i mean, i don't know if i,
would go that far. i suppose i would say there are strong positions of congressional leadship. clay is a great example of that, who are shaping policy to an extreme degreeing in congress. i don't know if i would say it's filling a vacuum but i would say that congress is a force and a presence and that there are people in that period who are asserting and shaping what they envision congress as being. still it's an evolving institution into the federal government is so much smaller, right? and our expectation, their expectations of the federal government were so much more reduced than it was -- than it is today. where today it's hard to -- the federal government is involved in all kinds of our lives, all sorts of dimensions and the president in particular is seen as the central -- the central personality to whom we turn to whom we invest all our hopes and
aspirations. and so right, imagining today's world wherein the president wasn't doing it, then there would be a vacuum. but these are different times. >> as you look at 2012, you look at the balance of power among the three branches, where do you think it's the strongest these days? >> well, i think that in today's politics, if you're looking for a single branch of government to provide the kind of leadership that's required to address deep trenchant social problems, the only branch of government that can provide it is the presidency. that congress is dysfunctional in this regard. i mean, the congress already as a collective decision making body has a hard time of attending to problems that don't have obvious solutions. i'm thinking things like how do we attend to a comprehensive energy program or a deal with
global warming? things of this sort of scale. it's -- and then when you build on top of that rising parties, it's at historic highs right now. >> you call it dysfunctional. so looking back in history, is there another period of time where you're writing about precivil war, was it dysfunctional then or more than in years past? >> i would say the common -- look, the level of polarization that's between the parties right now is at historic highs. that in conjunction with the rise of the personal vote, that is parties are weaker and the connection between individual members and their districts are what often matters most for the electoral prospect, members of congress getting re-elected. that this has made it very hard for members of congress to coordinate effectively with one another. and so when we see congress exercises influence, this is
true of military action, but it's also true of health care policies. they're the naysayers. they're the yeah-buts. yeah, that's a great thing to do, but. we're going to make what was a reasonably straightforward policy interception, we're going to weigh it down with all kinds of provisions and compromises and that is good for -- potentially good for deliberation, but it's not good for leadership. >> i would also add as far as the sort of dysfunction question is concerned, the 1850s, part of what happens is the sort of national party system collapses and things become focused around section as opposed to party. and that's a problem if slavery is the big issue. toward the late 1850s is -- and i think it's relevant today, as well -- congress functions partly on the floor, partly in committees and partly in private. in communication and negotiation and sort of asides. there's a sort of social level
in which a lot gets done, a lot of agreements are reached and arrangements are made. and i think congress is particularly dysfunctional when that is operating and i don't mean anyone, i mean people opposing politics and being able to informally chat over dinner, you know, the sort of cross partisan dinner parties where people are -- you know, right now you're not seeing any of that. >> no. >> that's a piece of institutional congress that's being stripped away. >> what you see in its place are individual members of congress grandstanding to empty chambers, right, giving these big speeches, taking a clear stand, and nobody is in the chamber. right? there is no real meaningful deliberation that's going on. it is beyond disagreement. it is lack of meaningful engagement across the various parties. >> public or private. >> yes. yes. >> is part of that because of the modern world and the communication and somebody can
go out in front of c-span on the house floor in morning-hour speeches and give a speech and nobody is there. and in early days in congress and giving speeches was not only policy was also entertainment, and people would come to see speeches being made and great orators as you mentioned. >> that's probably part -- i suspect there are a variety of things in play. and another big thing is money in politics and the amount of time they have to spend today simply raising money, creates less time for them to engage with one another. when you have to spend a lot of time raising money and taking out clear positions that your constituents are going to like and then generate a basic set of accomplishments that you can point to, there is not much time left over in a day for members of congress to meaningfully deliberate, openly deliberate with one another. >> and i think technology, because technology is the link between congress and the public, does have also as you suggested an influence. i mean, i am really intrigued by
the moment we're having now with people sitting and tweeting in congress and the fact that anything, any politician says, can become international within a millisecond. but what's interesting is in the late 1840s you get the telegraph and nationalized press, and it is a different technology and they're equally sort of freaked out about the implications of it. so there is an incident in 1850 that one senator pulls a gun on another senator. >> in the senate. >> in the senate chamber and nothing happens and they're both restrained and the moment passes and they're about to happily charge on with what's going on happen. and someone, a new hampshire congressman stands up and says i feel the need to say something. i hope you all realize even as we sit here they're beginning to read all over the country that we've just slaughtered each other in the senate, so everyone is sort of like, oh, okay, it is instant, and it is the press which means nothing happened but that's not what they're going to read in the newspapers.
it is an interesting kind of similar moment in which the technology is opening possibilities, but people haven't entirely figured out how to harness that in the best possible way. >> do you think we're well served by having members serve long terms? and always lots of talk about term limits in congress. >> people have -- i've looked at this a bit, particularly at the state level. in some states you have it and some you don't. >> state houses and things like that. >> exactly. and my understanding is literature suggests that the big problem with term limits, you can see the argument for them, right? we want people who will lead and not pander. i'm going to free you up from e electoral considerations. why? because you get to serve one time for six years and you're out of there.
on the other hand, and this is a big on the other hand, particularly with the congress, we are asking people when they go to congress to take positions and write laws about which they know very little. and we ask and in order for them to learn something, they have to invest in expertise. and if what you do is you say you'll be here for six years and you're out of here, there will be less incentives for them to invest in that expertise required to enact good policy and instead it is, look, you have six years. run. go as fast as you can, but if you think about just having nothing but freshman members of congress as a way of dealing, go back to the transient social problems, that's another layer of difficulty, right, dysfunction for a national legislator to overcome. >> and yet through the bulk of the 1800s, probably certainly the legislators were, quote, citizen legislators and went back for long stretches of time. >> and there was big and constant turnover, especially in the house.
a lot of one-term -- >> really? >> yes. i don't know what the percentages. there was a very high percentage of freshman congressman who beamed in and beamed out, and what that meant is some of the people who weren't, who actually were re-elected did have some institutional importance not even just on issues but institutionally speaking. >> knowledge. >> right. >> going back to your book on congressional violence, you talked about finding sources and things about things that frankly a lot of people don't know about, so it is pretty interesting. where were you finding these sources? these are in the congressional record? are they -- >> some of them are. the record of the time really was created by newspapers and a lot of this isn't in there or if it is in there, it is kind of coated. like you will see a bracket in comment and it will say the discussion became unusually excited at one moment. and having researched around for a while i now know what that means is probably someone punched somebody or called
someone a liar to his face and had to be held back, there was probably a physical moment there, and you don't see it, so historians -- it is not like these archives are new to historians. historians have been using the criminal end of the congressional record in all kinds of interesting ways but they haven't necessarily known all of those little coated buried things actually might boil down to violence. when you start there and see a moment you think, i wonder what the noise in the corner they're mentioning it and you go to newspapers and you look at the moment, and hopefully you find something in a newspaper and if not you go into diaries and letters, sooner or later if you keep triangulating evidence in most cases you can figure out, oh, that's what happened. but the fact that you have to do that, you know, with each -- >> what's striking about this is on the one hand you're documenting a lot of violence and on the other hand an effort to not speak openly about it. >> absolutely. >> right? this tension between we're going to engage in violence regularly
but it will often be hushed away, put in a corner. >> yeah. >> trying to make sense of that. >> we have a couple minutes left, and i want to find out from both of you, what's the value coming to a gathering of colleagues like this for you? what do you take away from these events? >> for me -- we were just talking about. for me it is generally speaking these kind of conferences are amazing because they're big and on one hand you get to connect with people in your field that you don't see except at conferences and you can see them in a group and you can sort of get a sense of what's new in the scholarship, and that's exciting. and part of it also is meeting these people in other fields in totally different time periods and engaging conversation and getting feedback in a way there is no other way you can get that kind of feedback. and i have been basically sitting in a room by myself writing for a long time. by coming here and actually talking in public about this project and getting feedback is kind of amazing. and the fact the feedback is